Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley and is composed of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin. Gluten is insoluble in water and gives wheat products such as breads, pizza and bagels texture and chewiness. Gluten forms when dough is kneaded and glutenin forms a network and associates with gliadin, which gives the dough viscosity.
As much as 1% of the population has Celiac Disease, a disorder caused by an inappropriate immune response to gluten. This damages the lining of the gut. The main symptoms of celiac disease are mal-absorption of nutrients, diarrhea, fatigue and the resulting weakening of organ systems. The lining of the small intestine can heal if patients eliminate gluten from their diet.
Many parents of children with autism believe that symptoms improve by following a strict gluten and casein-free diet. This diet can be difficult to implement, since so many food products contain the protein. Many food items that don't list the protein on the label, could still contain it. Gluten is often used as a food stabilizer, as in tomato ketchup and ice cream.
Gluten is an important source of nutritional protein, both in foods prepared directly from sources containing it, and as an additive to foods otherwise low in protein. Gluten is also used in some medications and is the main component of seitan, a meat substitute growing in popularity. Other foods that contain gluten are malt vinegar, (hydrolyzed) vegetable protein (unless derived from corn or soy) and modified starch (unless from tapioca, arrowroot, corn, potato).
Many gluten-free products are available today. These products are often made with rice flour, corn flour, potato starch and thickened with xanthan gum or guar gum.
Reverta is developing a autism supplement that aims to improve gastrointestinal functioning.